US media conglomerate Viacom has bought a 70% stake in Beijing-based Magic Media, a formerly Chinese-owned outdoor advertising company that specialises in coverage along bus routes in the Chinese capital.

The acquisition - as with all such deals in the People's Republic - will have required the blessing of the Chinese government whose media-friendly mask has slipped somewhat in recent weeks.

Only last month the neo-comrades introduced new rules to limit news and other information available to local web users, at the same time clamping down on the breadth of permitted online content.

But with the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics less than three years away (almost certainly the trigger for Viacom's purchase) the neo-coms are eager to present a friendly face to the world - and particularly to a US investor that also happens to own the CBS television network.

Says Viacom's co-chief operating officer Leslie Moonves: "Our outdoor advertising division already possesses a hefty international portfolio. This purchase of Magic Media for us is now a significant foothold in a nation where the growth opportunities are virtually limitless."

The deal also allows Viacom an option to acquire the residual 30% of Magic Media after five years, should it wish to do so,

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff